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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 8 October 2014

Key findings of the 2014 Progress Report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

The Progress Report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is part of the 2014 Enlargement Package adopted by the European Commission on 8 October. In the package, the Commission concluded that accession process is at an impasse. The country continues to sufficiently meet the political criteria for EU membership. The Commission recommended, for the sixth consecutive year, that negotiations should be opened, but regrets the backward steps of the past year.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was the first country to sign a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU and has been a candidate country since 2005. This year marked the tenth anniversary of the implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, the oldest in the region, on which the Commission has recommended since 2009 a move to the second stage of the association.

Political criteria

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continues to sufficiently fulfil the political criteria for membership of the EU. The country has completed the bulk of its reforms as regards the judicial system and, overall, the level of alignment is high in relation to where the country stands in the accession process. However, serious challenges persist, and developments during the year highlighted the risk of back-sliding on some key reform areas. There are concerns about the increasingly divisive political culture – it is the responsibility of both government and opposition to ensure that political debate takes place primarily in parliament. There are also serious concerns about increasing politicisation of state institutions and government control over media, including in the context of elections as reported by OSCE/ODIHR. The focus of reforms should be on these issues as well as the independence and competence of the courts, to address growing concerns about selective justice. Events during the year showed the importance of proactive measures to address inter-ethnic issues, building greater trust between communities, including through completion of the review of the Ohrid Framework Agreement and implementation of its recommendations.

The country is participating actively in regional cooperation and further developing bilateral relations with its neighbours. The name issue continues to affect relations with Greece. Maintaining good neighbourly relations, including a negotiated and mutually acceptable solution to the name issue, under the auspices of the UN, remains essential.

Economic criteria

Economic recovery continued in 2013 and financial stability was preserved, but unemployment, especially among youth, remained very high. Fiscal discipline as well as transparency and quality of government spending deteriorated.

The country remains well advanced and made some further progress towards the establishment of a functioning market economy. To cope with competitive pressures and market forces within the Union, in the medium-term, the country needs to implement structural reforms. These include public finance management, multi-annual budgeting and strategic planning.

Prospects for growth and employment depend largely on the development of the domestic private sector. To support this, there is a need to further improve the business environment, including access to finance.

EU legislation

The country has wide-ranging cooperation with the EU across all areas of the acquis and is at an advanced level of alignment as regards legislation, policies and administrative capacity. This is sufficient to move to the next stage of the accession process. The focus should now be on administrative capacity and coordination, to ensure effective implementation. Further efforts are needed particularly in terms of legislation relating to regional policy, environment and climate change, social policy and education. Public internal financial control also needs to be further strengthened and developed across the public administration.

Key dates

1999: The EU proposes the new Stabilisation and Association Process for countries of Southeast Europe

June 2000: The European Council states that all Stabilisation and Association Process countries are potential candidates for EU membership

April 2001: Signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, the first in the region

June 2003: Thessaloniki Summit: EU perspective for the Western Balkans is confirmed

March 2004: The country applies for EU membership

April 2004: The SAA enters into force

December 2005: The status of candidate country is granted

October 2009: The Commission recommends the opening of accession negotiations

December 2009: Visa-free travel to the Schengen area for citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

March 2012: High Level Accession Dialogue with the Commission launched

More information at:

http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/countries/strategy-and-progress-report/index_en.htm


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